Whether you think “friendship is magic” or you think grown adults who like Hasbro’s My Little Pony must be a bunch of pervs, online brony subculture is too pervasive to ignore.
That has given Hasbro a headache in dealing with an unexpected fan base—as a copyright-enforcement effort has sent the bronies stampeding.
Bronies have friends in high places: Stephen Colbert made headlines when he gave a shoutout to his bronies. No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain and President Bill Clinton are unabashed fans. And after The New York Times mixed up the names of two little ponies, Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy, enough bronies noticed that they were forced to make a speedy correction.
Now, bronies are in the limelight once more as they come into conflict with another mainstream topic: copyright infringement.
On December 14, Hasbro sent a formal notice to PonyArchive.org, a brony hub best known for providing high-quality streams of the toys’ spinoff TV series, asking it to take down copies of the shows. The Swedish site initially dismissed the notice, stating to Hasbro that US copyright law did not apply to them.
However, by December 20, PonyArchive.org was down completely. Only an angry, profane letter to Princess Celestia, the supreme ruler of Equestria, the world of My Little Pony, remains.
“Today we learned that Hasbro, are no real bros,” the letter read. “They are indeed proper wankers.”
However, this wasn’t the majority reaction. Many bronies instead followed the show’s slogan, “Friendship is Magic,” and would’ve preferred to extend an olive leaf to Hasbro. Out of the 845 comments on pony news site Equestria Daily’s coverage, the majority disagreed with PonyArchive’s reaction.
“Dear PonyArchive: as someone who supported you for so long, I am deeply disappointed in your reaction to the C&D and your ‘message’ to Hasbro," wrote XyroTR1. "On behalf of the rest of our community and in the interest of good taste, I urge you to take it down immediately."
“I would like to disassociate myself from the message currently up on the site," wrote SimonAJ, who identified himself as a former PonyArchive.org staff member. "I find it an incredibly immature act and I do not think it a wise course of action at all."
The scandal eventually got picked up by Gawker, where author Katie Notopoulos and commenters were able to refrain from making fun of bronies long enough to note that the shutdown means fans outside of America will now have to commit their own acts of piracy in order to watch the show.
“Illegal torrents of episodes are still out there for motivated bronies and international fans, and there's little chance bronies are going away anytime soon,” wrote Notopolous.
“I speculate that it will be quite a while before anypony from the original Pony Archive tries to put together a similar project, if they ever do again,” he wrote. “The best that can be done is to be the best brony you can be, and keep trotting along.”